cannabisnews.com: Narcotic Bill Reopens Drug War Debate





Narcotic Bill Reopens Drug War Debate
Posted by FoM on April 01, 2000 at 23:11:01 PT
By John Donnelly, Globe Staff
Source: Boston Globe
An odd thing happened to the Clinton administration's plan to fight drugs in Colombia on its way to passage by the House this week. For the first time in more than a decade, Congress began a serious debate on the drug war at home.
President Clinton and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, a Republican from Illinois, had braced for battles over the wisdom of spending $1.7 billion in the next two years in a guerrilla war, but no one expected the debate to swing in a new direction: whether more money is needed for treatment of hard-core addicts in the United States.A bipartisan group of congressmen introduced three major pro-treatment amendments to the Colombia bill, and while all of them were defeated, the issue had suddenly arrived on the national stage. There hasn't been such focus on drugs at home since 1986 and 1988, in reaction to the cocaine death of Len Bias, the Boston Celtics first-round draft choice. The demand then was for tougher sentencing in drug cases.This time, though, with US jails crowded with inmates on drug charges, no one was calling for more jail time for addicts. It was a call to help them.''When you're up against the president and the speaker of the House, it's much like pro wrestling: The results are pretty much ordained,'' Representative Jim Ramstad, a Minnesota Republican, said yesterday. ''But we just decided to run with it. And it resulted in the longest, most protracted debate we have ever had on drug treatment in my 10 years in Congress.''On the House floor, Ramstad talked impassionedly about his 18 years of recovering from alcoholism. Representative Randy ''Duke'' Cunningham, a California Republican and a supporter of Colombian aid, talked about his son's drug addiction. Representative David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat, shouted: ''If you are willing to fight the drug war 1,000 miles from here, why aren't you willing to fight it in your backyard!'' Representative Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican, shouted back: ''This could get so big that if we don't help Colombia now, we could be forced to send American troops in to deal with it!''For many who have followed America's war on drugs over the past three decades, from President Nixon's focus on treatment to President Reagan's shift toward cutting supply and putting offenders in jail, this week's discussion was surprising and raised hopes for further debate.''It is significant because treatment issues have not gotten much attention at all,'' said Michael Massing, author of ''The Fix,'' an account of the history of US drug policy. ''It is raising people's consciousness. One could see the Colombian plan become an issue in the presidential elections.''The drug treatment proponents, led by Representative Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, had one major weapon in their argument: a 1994 Rand study, commissioned by the US government, that showed dollars spent for treatment were 23 times more effective than dollars spent on interdiction in foreign countries.Peter Reuter, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, was director of Rand's drug policy research center at the time of the report. He said yesterday that while the report does show conclusive evidence of the financial benefits of treatment over interdiction, it also revealed that the vast majority of addicts return to drugs even after long stints in treatment centers.He believed the Colombian bill was an opportunity to reopen US drug policy.''It's a major change, the first big initiative in a long time,'' Reuter said. ''The overseas budget is always very small, and suddenly the scale of this has escalated dramatically, in a way that I believe is especially galling. We're spending money on a bunch of helicopters to help a brutal army crush a bunch of peasants. It's like waving a red flag and Nancy Pelosi responded.''House leadership blocked Pelosi from introducing an amendment that would add $600 million for treatment. But, under House rules, she was able to raise the issue by inserting a symbolic amendment that called for cutting $51 million from the Colombian plan and shifting it into treatment.The debate lasted 21/2 hours.''We made our point,'' Pelosi said yesterday in a telephone interview from San Francisco. ''There has been a gap in treatment, but there's also been a gap in the debate. You don't hear about treatment. In a presidential election year, with congressional races, you would expect people would recognize this as a problem in our society. ... Maybe there is a disdain people have for people who use drugs.''The Senate will now take up the Colombian plan.The issue will stay alive. Senator Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota Democrat, is poised to add an amendment for $400 million to treat addicts. Then, Pelosi and others plan to again fight for more treatment money when the bill goes before a House-Senate conference committee.The odds for success are low, but, Pelosi said, ''This is just the beginning.''This story ran on page A02 of the Boston Globe on 4/1/2000 Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company. Related Articles:House Approves $12.7 Billion in Emergency Spendinghttp://www.cannabisnews.com/news/thread5243.shtmlHouse Members Try to Reorient Drug War http://www.cannabisnews.com/news/thread5238.shtmlHouse Backs Administration on Aid for Colombia http://www.cannabisnews.com/news/thread5232.shtmlOperation Conquistador, Feds Unveil New Strategyhttp://www.cannabisnews.com/news/thread5231.shtmlThe Drug War's Southern Front http://www.cannabisnews.com/news/thread5230.shtmlSpeaker's Statement on Colombian Drug War http://www.speaker.gov/000330colombia.htm 
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Comment #5 posted by Tom Paine on April 02, 2000 at 11:38:39 PT
Many more Democrats than Republicans resisted!
The following is an excerpt from a March, 2000 DRCnet ezine article. http://www.drcnet.org/wol/131.html#colombiapackageNote in the last paragraph the preponderance of Democrats voting (unsuccessfully) to strip out the military drug war aspect of the bill. "An amendment by Rep. David Obey (D-WI), eliminating the military portions, received 186 votes, 127 Democratic, 58 Republican and one independent (results at http://143.231.123.93/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2000&rollnumber=84 )."Colombia Drug War bills in Congress. Resisted more by Democrats than Republicans. Section of webpage called: U.S. Rightist Republican DRUG WAR. Huge LINKS list! GOP Holy War. Revised edition.http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/y/gop.htm#co
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on April 02, 2000 at 11:06:06 PT
It really is something
kaptinemo,You see things much like I do. Each day the news seems to get better and better and now we series being done on different issues about the drug war. What a time this is right now.Peace, FoM!
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on April 02, 2000 at 09:05:35 PT:
Bending a little more, each time
''It's a major change, the first big initiative in a long time,'' Reuter said. ''The overseas budget is always very small, and suddenly the scale of this has escalated dramatically, in a way that I believe is especially galling. We're spending money on a bunch of helicopters to help a brutal army crush a bunch of peasants. It's like waving a red flag and Nancy Pelosi responded.''Amazing, isn't it? Little by little, bit by bit, painfully slowly, those who used to be ardent supporters of the DrugWar are having second thoughts. They used to (at least publicly) cheer the buck-naked emperor as he waddled down the street and loudly boasted about his invisible clothes. They used to try to muzzle the kid who stood up and said that the emperor not only was buck-naked but ugly as hell, too. But now, some are starting to find the courage to speak up. And why? Because some of their constituents might someday come back from Colombia in body bags, and for what? To try to keep some idiot from ramming white powders up his nose or in his veins? Can the numbers of casualties expected be really less than or equal to the number of yearly illegal drug overdoses? I think the 2X4 has finally struck squarely between the eyes of some of these political donkeys, and maybe just in time.In a very belated, slow-as-water-torture way they are starting to open their eyes and really see for themselves the insanity of the DrugWar - and how they may someday be called to account for their acquiesence in it's continuance. I don't expect any sudden epiphanies, but things are looking up. Hang in there, people; this is another sign we are winning.
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Comment #2 posted by dddd on April 02, 2000 at 03:39:08 PT
A feeble start
 It's nice that our lawmakers have finally mentioned treatment; "A bipartisan group of congressmen introduced three major pro-treatment amendments to the Colombiabill, and while all of them were defeated, the issue had suddenly arrived on the national stage. " My take on this,is that it is a ploy designed to soften the outrage of critics,and people who are aware of the obscene flim-flam that the "War on drugs" is. Money for treatment and such,will suddenly appear after large insurance and medical firms have formed their own treatment companies,and then the government will shower them with money. We havnt heard any dicussion of marajuana decriminalization,What will probably happen,is they will start by funding treatment centers for all of us marijuana addicts. Sorry to be so negative,,but can you blame me?Jah be with you...........dddd
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Comment #1 posted by MMMM on April 01, 2000 at 23:53:57 PT
Finally Sanity
Commendations for congressmen opening their eyes and realizing that addiction to hard drugs should be treated rather than punished. Personally, I think weening them off hard drugs using marijuana is a better idea. I think Dr. Grinspoon has a story on his web page about just this thing. 
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